tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 4, 2014 4:00am-6:01am EDT
time, recognized that the roots of the war lay in the national rivalries over imperial control, over these different parts of the world. so it's important to think about what's happening today, in gaza, in israel, in ukraine, but also in other areas, in iraq, syria, as was mentioned, in africa, and sudan. the congo, as being the results, the legacies of imperialism, the drawing of national borders that many many respects were arbitrary that disregarded the national, ethnic and religious identities of the people who live there had. when we think about what world war i means today in our current world, in many respects we're still experiencing the struggles over self-determine nation that emanated the hopes and aspirations of many all over the world at the end of the war and
are still being fought for today. >> just to sum it up, one of the points that dr. thompson made about the end of the war, the armies were more interested in demobilization, getting people home, and that was -- reporting about what's going on in the middle east, but it really wasn't much of a concern in this country, but as time went on, after the war, we're celebrating, we're moving on from the war, it wasn't possible in the middle east, and things were exacerbating and of course getting worse, and now we're concerned and it's the top news story that's going on. >> russia and ukraine, seems to be spinning out of control. also with these groups during world war i, how did this all start? >> trouble between the ukraine and the great russians, the
moscowvites start back in the middle ages, but with world war i, in 1918, the germans had conquered a good part of the eastern part of europe and the russians had dropped out of the war with the revolution in 1917. the ukrainians declared themselves a separate republic. the treaty was negated with the peace treaty at versailles. but i want to mention, which is is critical to understand the ukraine-russia and other things. at the end of the war, we all know four empires collapsed. german, austria hungarian, russian and turkish, this whole area is where you've got to understand the second world war is going to be born because the peace treaty of versailles did not resolve what world war i was fought about but actually is going to increase the problems, my colleagues will go into that later. but i want to mention in 1920, poe land was reborn.
it had not existed since 1795. well the poles went to war against the balshivic s's. they also got control of the polish territory. the treaty of versailles could object hold if the united states was there and our senate voted down the treaty, so the treat which depended on britain and france policing the treaty. britain's not going to do it. her biggest trade partner is germany, so she's not going to do it. but the danger was in the east, because the treaty of versailles was dead if germany or the soviet union became great powers and they did about the same time and their mutual enemy was poland. if you realize this, you understand better the match nations with hitler in the western front achkd the eastern front.
but in the war, the ukrainian nationalists fought both the soviet and the ukraine -- and -- continued until 1947. lady -- president crew chef will threaten and send plague germs for pregnant women and children and it says ukrainian nationals get out of the forest or your women and children die and that ended that. but when you start the cold war, the soviet union takes the eastern empire as a protected area against invasion from the west, keeping the threat of germany which is dead in 1945. however, what happens then is, and many americans aren't aware of this, one quarter of the former soviet union atomic missiles are still in the ukraine. and by the fact that we are
trying to toy with the ukraine and support them again in the eu. it's the same and cuba and the united states in '62. and excusing the people in the proesz, i don't believe the press because most of what they say is ball loney, the -- in fact their entire navy consisted of almost all ukrainian sailors. so we start playing and trying to get them to revolt, which we never do, of course. putin has a right and that is only going to be resolved after much more blood shed, it is not going to end overnight. thank you. >> just to add one, again to circle it back to the first world war, a lot of people don't know that there were american troops in north russia and
siberia and there were regiments when other american troops were winding down on the western front, we still had troops well into 1919 and later who were also sin support of the white russians and there were a number of americans who lost their lives in an area we don't think of as an area of war. >> in fact josef stalin said that the cold war began when troops landed in 1919. >> you talk about how all this circumstan circles back to the first world war, and that seemed to precipitate even more war. did the people who came up with the treaty of versailles and the other agreements, what did they not understand? >> i think part of it, when you look at the french, for example, there was a lot of anger, of course, they wanted retribution
against the germans, a lot of their infrastructure was destroyed, a lot of citizens, the same thing with the belgins, a lot of their populations died at the hands of germans, so you have a lot of anner, you have a lot of animosity of going after the germans, and i think that animosity let to the germans -- having this treaty and the united states was kind of on the peripheral, as president wilson was kind of running it as the referee, it was never ratified in the united states and it ended up being more, i think, of the other allies kind of controlling things at the table. >> well, i think in some ways it also reflected the limitations of american influence, when it came to the effort of internal dynamics of europe and really the deep seated hostilities that
were at the core of the war, and how the wilson and all of his idealism, self determination, creating an international order of diplomatic relations was not ultimately effective in appea appeasing the different nations that were trying to sit down at the table and to resolve this great conflict, which ultimately led to the next great conflict of the 20th century. but i think even looking more specifically at the american perspective, and wilson specifically, his lack of attention to domestic affairs, the fact that when he was in versailles negotiating the peace treaty, america is inflames, you have race riots taking place in the country, you have labor unrest. you have a tremendous amount of domestic upheaval, that affected the politics of getting the
treaty passed through congress, which ultimately didn't happen. so i think there's a number of different factors looking from the perspective of the united states and wilson specifically, that speech why versailles was also a failure. >> george clements played wilson like a fiddle. in particular, you mention about the league of nations, the main weakness that had no army was controlled by britain and france, as the u.n. was when it was originally created in 1942. whenever wilson would stand up and say -- this is how he gave into the mandates for asia, africa and the middle east. he was convinced by lord george and clemmen son who had to be
snickering under his breath. but in the middle east, they will be free soon. and wilson fell for it. the main other point is, because i'm a european historian, is the austria hungarian empire was destroyed, created seven countries that could not exist alone and nationalism was the key. and this, if you go back to what i said earlier, if germany becomes a great power of the soviet union, these countries are there for picking, because they were nationalistic, each one had at least one-third of other races within them. and they all wanted to rule on their own and wilson never visited the battlefields once, never understood what the war was about. and i hate to say it lloyd george and clemmons came out the
winners in versailles. >> i think it's important to take a closer look back at the four years that were world war i. how to describe that war? history channel asked some historians and authors to give it a try in one word. >> if i had to choose one word to describe world war i it would be cataclysmic. >> the one war would be catastrophic. >> transformational because nothing was the same once the war was over. >> the one word to describe world war i is destructive. >> i would choose the word mistake, stupid, that's how i
would encapsule late the first would war. world war i did not have to happen. there was no inherent reason, it literally was dumb. a person during world war i thought they were in a new age, a fascinating modern world, the world that produced titanic, aviation and incredibled a manses in medicine. it seemed like everything was within grasp right before world war i and all of these would be smashed in the battlefields of europe. >> from the very beginning, the road to war because everything that comes out of the war and the peace plans was not just one mistake but a series of mistakes. people had the option to choose peace and time and again seemed to make the wrong decisions. >> it was lack of communication, it was intellectual rigidity, it was a simple falling of dominos that never needed to fall so. the children of the renaissance and the age of reason and
enlightenment ended up massacring themselves in the mud and blood of the trenches. >> not just destructive in terms of what happens to men on the battlefie battlefield, destructive in terms of global politics. >> the world that existed in 1918 was remarkably different from the one that existed in 1914. >> the whole globe was influenced by this war and the transformational changes cover a wide range from technology of weapons, you see the first tanks, you see the maturation of artillery guns, machine-guns, trench warfare, world war i begins the modern era. >> that's an interesting piece, world war i began the mod aroer era, but brooks characterized it
as a mistake, what did that man? >> it was an inevitable war with all the other empires, either what was going on in europe at that time that was kick started by the assassination in serbia and it went from there. >> i consider the causes of the war the alliance system is most important one, and this is how i sprain explain to my students, hung garry was going to invade, regardless. germany didn't start the first world war. austrian is going to invade szczerbi serbia hoping that -- the wars of 1912, 1913 deserves a lot of explan nation, but we don't have
time. why are britain and france and germany coming into the war on august 1? because of the alliance system. and i add the arms race, from 1911 on, everybody is arming to the teeth. there's going to be a war. if you read the book sleep walkers, everybody's raving about it, he's wrong, they weren't sleep walking. there's a book in kamans university press, we had to name is five to ten people most responsible for the outbreak of the war and they all knew what was going to happen because they were caught up in the nationalism, the most dangerousism of the 20th and 21st centuries. so the war starts out as a local war, but austria hung garry has to invade -- because she has 15 nationalities. the war declaration against serbia is published in sap
different languages. germany could not let austria-hungary be defeated, it was her only ally. and the treaty that was -- would take the weight off the west if they went to war. >> i think there's a danger in characterizing the war as stupid. because it mattered. at the time the war mattered to millions of people. they were fighting for something that they believed in. and people all over the world were engaged in this conflict. it was a truly world war. so dismiss it as stupid, meaningless, i think runs the risk of dismissing it, you know, as a historical event. and i think some of the other historian who is spoke on the video spoke to the tremendous ous ramifications of the war, the transformations that took
place in terms of technology in terms of just the nature of modern warfare, i mean world war i was a big deal, it mattered in big ways. so i would characterize if i had to choose one word. i would characterize it as tragic. it was a tragic historical moment but one that was incredibly important to how we think about the world today. >> certainly there's a reason why this museum that was built, originally a memorial here, because it was an important event, the people who were involved with it, whether they were on the battlefield, or whether they were political leaders knew that this was not the war to end all wars and ultimately it was going to lead to other conflicts. >> you talk about the magnitude of this war and this building that we're in right now is a testament to that. world war i lasted four years and involved 20 countries and soldiers from five continents,
25,000 elys were lost. a generation at that time wiped out. and the u.s. was only involved for about the last 18 month of the war. 2 million americans served overseas, more than 116,000 were either killed in combat or disease, and that's nearly two times the number of american troops in korea and vietnam. this was called the war to end all wars, it was not, it was just the opposite here. help us to understand how the united states got involved in this war that was thousands of miles and an ocean away? >> using the worth inevitable zbechb, i think there was a point where the u.s. was going to get involved. i mean the chief reasons go back to the sinking of the plus -- germanys -- weenl there's pressure put on the u.s. and i
think we recognized the fact that we had to help our allies who were the british and the french at this time. there were a lot of american immigrants who would have been just as happy if the united states had gone on the side of germany and certainly fought against the british, but then you have the mexican revolution, which we became involved in, and the zimmerman telegram that said mexico, we'll help u you get that, arizona, texas and new mexico and that kind of turns the tide for the united states but there were so many people in this country that didn't really understand why do we need to get in a war that's more than 3,000 miles away, we're not directly involved in that. but without the united states, the war wouldn't have ended and we certainly turned the tide. >> the united states was involved in the war in various ways, from the beginning. whether it's economic, providing arms for the allies, whether it's volunteers go to europe, to
the red cross, you have americans following what's happening in the war and we mentioned that immigrant communities that have a clear connection to it is in terms of their relatives and family members, so when the united states got involved, formally in the war, i think in the spring of 1917, it wasn't as if this was just suddenly thrust upon the american people. these were questions, issues that americans have been confronting and debating for quite some time. burr trying to mobilize american population was a different story. and that's, i think where woodrow wilson becomes very important in terms of how he frames the war as a war to make the world a safer democracy, kind of tapping into the democratic idealism of the united states and was quite effective in terms of mobilizing a country that was wholly
unprepared for war, the united states had one of the smallest standing armies in the world, but by the time the war ended, you know, had emerged as a significant military power on the global stage. >> talk about public sentiment in that particular time in history, i don't think americans, were americans emotionally ready to go to war and how unready, as you mentioned they were not physically ready to go, how not ready were we? >> i was going to -- you ask an excellent question. i mean there's still animosity from the civil war, there was still divisiveness between the north and the south. so again, not everybody in this country said we need to fight for the united states overseas in a war, we certainly weren't ready, as dr. williams pointed out, we had one of the smallest standing armies, we had a regular army force, we had a national guard that was morphed in the militia. do we weren't ready
technologically to fight this war, we didn't have enough manpower, we had to institute a draft that was not entirely popular. it really was starting from scratch, so did the british when they got into the war, they had a small standing army as well. they had to rely on their form of militia, so the united states had that kind of learni ining c to build up. and this angered a lot of the military leaders in france and britain, bring them over and we'll meld them with our troops. personing was 2k3wi67 a mandate, you'll fight as an independent army, you eeg fight as an american army, if you need to help out the other allies, so be it, but this was going to be an american army. and wilson never visited the battlefields, he said secretary of war baker over there a couple of times, he would report back
to him. but wilson didn't really care so much about the fighting, he was worried about what was going to happen at the peace table once the war was over. >> the united states government created a tremendous propaganda machine to generate support for the war among many segments of the population who were skeptical for various reasons, you had the -- remarkable machine of government sponsored propaganda. but you also have a strong element of government repression, you have one of the darker aspects of american involvement in the war is this tremendous suppression of individual lib berties that too
place, restriction of the freedom of press that in some ways countered the democratic idealism that woodrow wilson was propagating. >> i would also like to mention capitalism because we do live in america. the united states government loaned money to britain. britain lost a all her gold reserves, but britain loaned money to italy and france. if we didn't enter the war, who was going to pay the bills? when we mentioned the luft -- all the newspapers in new york city contained articles that the ship contained utility shells and ammunition, it's a ship of war, but it's one of the reasons we go into the war. i want to mention after the war, because this is one of the things that helps hitler. the italians have trouble obtaining the money, the -- so what do the americans do? they loan money to the
government which is used to build buildings, i don't have time to go into it, it's not my class. but the depression makes the difference. it's over these payments, hitler only becomes important because of the depression. and then his party rises and i'll stop and let my colleagues get n. >> we'll switch gears just briefly here, when you look at this major war overseas, it also drove some huge cultural changes back here at home. how did the war further the fight for civil rights for women's rights, dr. williams, you've done a lot of research on this. >> in some ways, one of the most dramatic reverberations of the war happened on the home front in terms of transformations and social, cultural, political and race relations in the united states. again, the way that the war was framed, to make the world safe
for democracy, kind of tapped into the democratic aspirations of a broad range of marginalized people, groups inside the united states. we can look at the women's rights culmination in the 19 hth amendment. the fight for labor, fight for unionism, workers rights, african-americans who really used the language and discourse of democracy to engage in a struggle to affirm their citizenship rights in the united states but to also expand upon their citizenship rights which had really been under attack since the end of reconstruction, so that we can look at the fact that you have some 3,000 african-american soldiers that served in would war 1, roughly 40,000 fighting on the western front. very important in terms of what the event domestically as
americans, looking at them as a source of hope and inspiration, but also their contributions to the war effort itself, which i think often go unrecognized, so we can look at the war in many ways being the burden of the modern civil rights movement. we're talking about the black experience, how you have a generation of african-americans who come out of the war determined to continue the fight for democracy, who take the lessons from the war, the positive developments, but also the disillusionments and translate that into sustained efforts for change, for racial change in the united states. that happens during world war ii and culminates in the 1950s and 1960s. >> those african-american soldiers had to fight in french uniforms. talk a little bit about why that was, their lives in europe and their lives when they returned
book to the united states? >> sure. you have two additidivisions, a can go on and on, i wrote a whole book about this. you had one division the 92n't dwags, that was subjected to institutionalized racism, had a very trying experience, especially amongst its black officers. but you have another addition, the 93rd division which was a provisional division knead up largely of black national guards man from new york, chicago, other places and per shing had promised the french a division of american troops, if and when the united states entered the war, so not knowing what to do with this conglomeration of black national guardsmen he conveniently gave the 93rd division to the french army,
they served under french kmangd, wore french uniforms and -- in some ways their experience spoke to the challenges that african-americans faced in serving in american military, but also the idolism that serving under the french generated as far as providing black soldiers with a different view of racial possibilities, that there were alternatives to what they were experiencing, what they had experienced in the united states and this, again, translated into the post war period. >> i would like to add also some of the unsung heroes were native americans, there were thousands of native americans who served in the combat division, out of the 86th had a number of native americans, and we know about the
navajo code talkers, that dates to the first world war where there were choctaw code talkers had used the telephone and used their own dialect and came up with some kind of jibberish message that fooled the germans. but native americans were rewarded for their so-called service by being given nationalation after the war. >> the war also drove incredible advances in technology, they rode in on horse back and came out on airplanes. talk a little bit about what people may not know about the technology and advancement that happened these four years that were world war i. >> medical research, particularly advanced, because you didn't have your wonder drugs yet. give you one example and a lot of head wounds were fatal, particularly in the alps, that was the worst field of battle in the first world war in europe.
and the artillery shells would hit the rocks and the people of rocks would go in the heads because they didn't have feel helmets until the end of the war. and austria who won a war in -- you clean out the wound, a lot of times you went like with abraham lincoln and totally treated the wound incorrectly. armor did not prove itself in the first world war, in fact the germans didn't see it as being that worthwhile arm because they didn't build a lot of tanks because their artillery would stop them. so that will be a development later. the telegraph and the telefoen become critical in the pittsburgh world war because it would lead to the advances that would start in the second world war. but oil becomes the mainstay of warfare, this 134r5i7bs the
middle east later and even today, oil is the background, as we all know, it's not going to last for every, we somewhere got to come up with solutions, it's the key to military power. that's why china is trying to get all the oil she can. and within a few decades, it will be the first time in history a country will be able to threaten an invasion of the united states. >> anybody else have anything to add about the technology that was developed during the war? >> i was going to say some of the paintings you see that were done after the war or even well after show hand to hand combat. that was unusual and part of the reason was the fastball that the machine-gun were so deadly. the germans were master of the machine-guns. it was very difficult to get close to them because they were air ball to use them with such deadly effectiveness that having bayonet fighting and hand to
hand and wrestling that you see in some of these paintings just really never happened. >> from the film with the artillery, it's critical to understand that. when the war began, artillery will end up being the killer of 81% of those killed in world war i. but artillery was not accurate. and you'll see on the western front and the eastern front, the idea is more and more artillery. it's not until the end of the war that artillery becomes a truly effective weapon. before that, an italian front in one battle, the italians had an artillery piece every four feet and just decimated the area in fromt of them. but artillery is the key web in world war i, it's evolution is slow and it's not cleatompletedt in 1918. >> add to that, tanks, poison gas, a number of ways to purpose trait the horror of war more
effectively. world war i has been called the forgotten war. why is it so important to remember? we asked a few historians and authors. >> i think it's so important to remember the first world war because it shaped the world that we live in now. it wasn't just something that's long, gone and buried. the conflicts that emerged, the border disputes that emerged from world war i continued to plague us in very steers ways. >> world war i is called the forgotten war because it was overshadowed by world war ii. and not only was world war ii great never scope, it was also mechanicalized, the nazis on one side and the per traitors of pearl what are for on others. you could almost call world war ii lord of the rings with tanks. whereas world war i was young men dying in mud in trenches
that didn't move. it's not really the stuff of heroic songs and largely the madness of world war i has been overshadowed by the crusade of world war ii. >> we went into it grossry unprepared achkd we repeated the same lesson over again in world war ii. >> the solution to the end of the war was not a swlugs. and that is the lesson we can use to this day, we have to be very careful about how we conduct international relations, especially when it involves armed conflict. >> individuals were not object confront with the war, they were confronted with the pandemic flu outbreak. and so many of our young men died of not combat, but of the closeness that they had to live and the pandemic that spread. america faced a tragedy, but the world faced a tragedy in that. the significant loss of life in
world war i can be something that we can never forget. >> world war i is important to rib because it birthed an american century. we hear over and over again about the greatest generation, but who were the parents of the grea greatest generation? who forged the greatest generation? it was the world war i veterans and it was the families of the world war i veterans. in addition to remembering those lives lost and the families of those world war i veterans, it's important to remember this war because there are starkly geopolitical parallels between now and then. people have said the world is kind of on a crash course because of nationalism once again and other conflicts in the world. are these valid comparisons?
>> i think to some of the points made in this film, there were heroes, there were a lot of heroes, for example in the american army, the highest honor one could receive was the medal of honor. and that wasn't given out lightly, that was given out to men who did heroic things that supported their comrades, some of them died trying, freddy stauers, who dr. williams can talk about, he mentions him in his book, was killed in battle. he was part of the 93rd division, he was the only american that got the medal of honor posthumously. a word to describe that war is terrifying, when you read the accounts, it was a terrifying experience. the artillery, the machine guns, these were experiences these men brought home with them and a lot of them just didn't want to talk
a lot of them did not want to talk about it. they never mentioned it to the families. during my work in the national archives i would meet families who found out much later on that a had someone -- a relative who had fought in the war. they never talked about because it was such an horrific experience. certainly in this country, it became a forgotten war. thankfully, for the national memorial heroes museum, we can still remember what they did and i hope the next four years we will be a will to pay tribute to those people. >> you can talk about this as well, it is certainly not a forgotten war in europe. if you go to france and great britain and germany, world war i they're still living with it on a daily basis. french farmers are still digging up unexploded artillery shells. its still a part of many lives
of many people pp in united states, out of the reason why the war may be forgotten has to do with the trauma as well as the disillusionment, and how the reasons for why the united states fought in the war became very contested immediately after the war in 1919. the failure of the united states to join the league of nations. americans were actively questioning what was this war about, what were the sacrifices were that we made for? that has been passed down from generation to generation. why the war doesn't have the same resonance in the united states as it does in europe. >> in europe, it certainly does. i have been in poland and all over europe, particularly central and eastern europe, giving talks. all over central and eastern europe, they have fallen tears dsh neff volunteers /* /- /* /-
/* replacing all the gravestones of those who died in the first world war. in little villages and big cities, they will never be forgotten in europe because an entire generation was destroyed. >> in the so-called lost generation after the war, the great writers like hemingway and faulkner were disillusioned. i thought they were going to make a great contribution to this conflict there they went in early as volunteers. no one was really happy about it very certainly the germans weren't nor were the allies. the people who fought in it started questioning what we gave for this? what was our contribution? >> we look at the world today, some people have made comparisons between how the world looks then and how the world looks today, about certain conflicts and rivalries between countries. to compare that to how the world
looks prior to world war i. talk about china growing militarily and economically. how daunting are those comparisons in your mind? should we be concerned? >> i think we should be concerned. it is the story before world war i of germany before england and possibly france. believe me, those of you think rush is not a threat, i have a bridge to sell you in brooklyn. russia is still a great power and is very dangerous. but the power and threat, and i'm earned used overpopulation. you're not aware of it by 2050, india will pass china and they will have well over half the world population. that often leads to war. just to give you an example how world war i affected what is going on today. in world war i, president wilson told the chinese leaders that if they would go to war against germany, he would make sure that the peace treaty that they could
bring up the shandong peninsula question which had been taken by the japanese. well, when the versailles treaty came up, clem and lloyd george said to president wilson that we have a secret treaty with japan. it keeps the shandong peninsula. the telegraph arrived and the versailles treaty which the vietnamese, the chinese, et cetera on the racial clause was ignored, critical, a century later. believe me. the key is, when the telegraphs arrived in china and they found out that they did not get the shandong peninsula, it led to the 4th of may movement, a gigantic upheaval. workers, intellectuals, as a result of this the in 1919, by 1920, the chinese communist
party was formed and the nationalist party. japan invaded china in 31 and 37. chang kai-shek was one of the most corrupt rulers in history. he was notorious for not fighting the japanese because he could not beat them. so he kept fighting the go from 1921 to 1949. in world war ii, chiang spend most of his time fighting communists and we were supporting him. in '49, the revolution succeeded. that is when the cold war moved to asia. you had the korean war. i can throw in japan. why is the korean war? because china had a revolution. the cold war is here.
china has seen itself as betrayed by the americans and disliked us going back to the first world war era. is china a threat? she has a lot of nationalities, but she has a lot of problems and is destroying the earth environmentally, but she is also very dangerous. >> i think when you get some challenges facing the world today, it raises a lot of questions about the efficacy of the international bodies. i think there are lessons to be learned from world war i about how to prevent wars and what steps need to be taken to create robust, sustainable international governing bodies. look at what is happening in israel, and gaza, ukraine, in syria. where is the united nations? where is the european union.
hopefully we can look back on world war i and some of the failures i came out of the war and hopefully take some lessons about how to prevent these large-scale global conflicts from escalating into something more sinister. >> the u.s. had military advisors and attaches all over europe and they were reporting on political, economic, military conditions. we knew what germany was doing. staff. they were preparing for war. this should not have come as a great surprise. what is going on in china? we need to be aware of what the chinese are doing. we need to not get caught off guard like we did in the korean conflict. >> thank you. we will take a few questions now from members of our live audience and from people online.
you can tweak questions to @ww1centennialcommission. any questions from the audience? >> can anyone on the panel compare the recent downing of airliner over the ukraine with the sinking of the much discussed lusitania here today? >> i would like to say that to fly over that area was insane. you have a war zone, why are you flying over it? most of the major countries were not flying over it anymore. i think it was stupidity in the part of the malaysian airlines. >> another question from our audience? >> i was wondering if you could elaborate just on the effect that world war i had on women in america after the aftermath.
you elaborated a little bit on labor groups and race relations. >> a think the first world war gave women an opportunity. men went off to war, so that women just like in the second world war took over in factories and in other jobs they would normally not have been allowed to work at. certainly after the war, women's rights. women played a significant role overseas in volunteer organizations like the salvation army, ymca, but also as telephone operators. of course nurses, and i am talking about this country. the world had changed and it opened up from this experience for women to be more empowered. >> another question? gentleman in the back.
>> i would like to maybe slightly disagree with those who say that the soldiers of world war i were a lost generation, in that many of the soldiers who fought in world war i came back and became community leaders. we have such people in kansas city as the judge and the gentleman who spearheaded the whole idea behind brown versus board of education. there are so many people who joined the american legion who became great assets to their community with goals and ideas that someone picked up when they were in europe. >> you're absolutely right. a lot of soldiers came back and became community leaders and their churches and civic organizations and businesses. the point i want to make earlier
was that they had such a horrific experience, especially on the western front, in the trenches. as dr. williams pointed out, if you are an african-american you were treated poorly by your white officers. when they came back they didn't want to talk about what happened to them in the combat zone but they wanted to move on with their lives and become better people, become community leaders. >> the war was incredibly transformative for individual soldiers identities. in the case of african-american soldiers the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country, travel to to different parts of the world. the idea of a rural sharecropper from alabama the going to france was revolutionary. the war expanded the horizons of many american soldiers, especially black troops, and
they used those experiences to transform their lives for the better after the war, to transform the lives of those in their families and their communities. many african-american soldiers did become key members of their civil rights organizations. charles hamilton houston was one of the architects of the naacp's legal strategy to combat jim crow segregation, served as an officer in the american army during the war. you have many american soldiers who come back from the war who are deeply transformed and take those experiences into various aspects of their lives to affect change, locally as well as nationally. >> in the military there was americans and on the other side the germans and russians. the lieutenants and captains
survived the first world war, back the generals and field marshals of the "second world war." in the military realm, it was affected as well. >> if you can just keep your hands up so rebecca can get to you. >> i just wanted to know from your perspective, we seem to be talking about the '20's as a generation where women get rights. there's a big social change for them. why do you think it took longer for african-americans to get that same sort of momentum in terms of civil rights movement? just a general opinion, how much of a difference would it have made it united states had joined the league of nations? >> in the case of african-americans, you have a deeply entrenched history and legacy of racism and systemic discrimination which took time
to fight against. what is important to think about in terms of the significance of world war i is we see the groundwork being laid, the seeds being sewn for the civil rights movement. you have individuals who are maturing, coming of age. you have organizations like the naacp, the urban league that are growing and expanding. you have important shifts in the demographics of the country with african-americans migrating to the north. that affects political change. change being the calculus of politicians on the local and national levels as far as how they are going to support various civil rights efforts out of political expediency. it does take time, and that is why i think many historians today tend to think of the civil rights movement as not being the
singular moment, but as a process, a long civil rights movement that really began in the late 19th century and perhaps even continues today. >> can i answer the league of nations? >> i was going to ask. go ahead. >> the main problem with league of nations is that it did not have any armed forces. if you don't have armed forces you don't make decisions. the united states and all the countries that fought in world war i had been bled to death. they were not anxious to fight. the league of nations, even if the united states had been in, i don't think the american people would have voted to send troops anywhere. the league of nations was a playground for england and france. it was not truly a league of nations at all. if you look at mussolini in invading ethiopia, he got
slapped on the hand. does the league of nations do anything when the japanese invaded china? no. they put out a paper saying this probably should not have happened. i'm not a big fan of the league of nations. you can probably catch that. [laughter] the league of nations without armed forces was not going to make a difference. >> we have a question from online. would there not have been a hitler had the been no world war i? >> hitler was nothing in germany. again, it was the depression. when the depression hit, hitler took all the arguments against
versailles, articles 231 and 232, germany started the war, therefore she must pay. stab in the back. it was economic troubles of the depression that brought him forward. it is the depression era that stalin was able to use to build up the russian army. you would not have had a hitler if it had not been for the depression. >> we have time for one more question. >> we have a question from facebook. he asks: does too much focus on the western front distort the history of the first world war? if so, how to compensate for this?
a lot of people don't understand the caucasus front. there are academic books out there that have this information. the western front, this is the key, if you don't understand it. the winning powers write what they want. since the british speak english, sort of like ours, we get what they say. we get what they say. i will tell you little secret. look at any book written before 1990 and you will see no picture of a french soldier in a british history of the first world war. the british only had 25 miles of the front. >> we may have room for one more question. >> i want to thank the panel for a very informed discussion. my question basically i would like to hear your honest opinion about how far we have evolved as
a society when we -- [laughter] i will elaborate. i think it is alarming to see historians say this war was stupid simply because we continue to make the same mistakes. we talk about nationalism and we see it right here in america. being pulled into iraq after 9/11. none of our leaders have the courage to stand up to that based on nationalism. are we still just barely tamed animals willing to destroy each other? >> i have more faith in the human species that we would not replicate what happened in the first world war. i certainly think there are important lessons to be learned. there are eerie parallels. i do think we have perhaps
evolved to a point, and i am trying to be as optimistic as possible, that we would not replicate what happened in the first world war. i think the costs were so high that the memories are still so vivid and with us that we would not make those kind of mistakes again. >> i just would like to say -- the trouble in the middle east and other areas is religion. >> you mention in your question about nationalism. certainly, nationalism became so as americans got further into the war. if we got into a major conflict like that again, americans would join together. one of the problems you brought up, was preparedness.
we weren't prepared for that war. even though there were leaders who urged the united states. that is something we should consider. as things got more and more dangerous in the century. >> the problem is that armed forces were being made weaker and weaker. i don't think we should be the policeman of the continent, but you don't have diplomacy unless you have military force. that is what we have got to understand with china and russia. they understand force. they don't understand words. they'll listen to words. >> we will have to leave it there. i want to thank my panel. [applause] thank you so much. thank you. would also like to thank our audience for your thoughtful questions and we would like to thank you for your thoughtful answers. we would also like to extend a big debt of gat attitude to the
national world war i museum and to history channel and national world war i commission for making this possible. thank you for joining us. >> on the next washington journal dr. gavin macgregor-skinner on the response to ebola virus. an update on key mid-term election. transportation reporter on what the government and trucking industry are doing to improve highway safety. washington journal begins live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> this weekend on the c-span networks on saturday night at 9:00 eastern the founder and former chair of microsoft gill gates on the ebola virus outbreak in west africa and sunday evening at 8:00 on q and a director of national museum of african art.
saturday night at 10:00, heather cobs richardson on the history of the republican parent live sunday at noon on book tv's in depth, legal affairs editor and in charge of reuters. and saturday at 5:00 p.m. eastern on american history tv on c-span 3, former fbi agents on catching the una bomber suspect and on sunday afternoon on american artifacts the 100th anniversary of the panama canal. find our situation schedule at c-span organize. call us at 202-626-3400, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. join the c-span conversation, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter. next, gettysburg college history professor examines the experiences of world war i soldiers. he looks at the work of three writers including earnest
hemingway to illustrate how soldiers coped with the trauma of war and their transition to civilian life. this lecture is an hour and 20 minutes. >> all right. we'll go ahead and get started with today's class. today we're covering as you can see, disillusionment, first world war disillusionment and how we should approach the topic. iwill begin this class with a way i have never begun world war memories. i'm going to begin with a canonical poem. a poem that comes out of the first world war and is reprinted
in anthologies over and over again to show us something of the experience of the great war and its memory. you will undoubtedly recognize it because you read it for today's class. not need, coughing like pegs, we cursed through sludge. still on the hunting, we turned our backs and toward our distant began to trudge. men marched asleep many have lost their boots, but slinked on bloodshot. all lying. drunk with fatigue, outstripped five nines's. fittingly, we have a pockmarked, shell torn landscape behind the
soldiers. quick, boys, in ecstasy of fumbling. fitting the clumsy helmets just in time, but someone was still yelling out and stumbling then through the misty panes and thick green light as in a green sea, i saw him drowning in all my dreams he plunges toward me, choking, drowning. if in some smothering dreams, you too could pace if you could hear at every jolt, the blood, gargling from the frost corrupted lungs, my friends, you would not tell with such high zest to children ardent for some
great glory. that it is sweet and fitting to die for s country. these are of course the words of wilfred when, written as it was ongoing. wilfred himself was a junior officer in the british army in the first world war. they are often reprinted words and they show us something about the brutality of war and the experience of war on the front. the totality of war. they also show us something political. in an argument here, especially in the last part where he talks about men dying for nations, for national cause. the mistakes of this one man's death becomes very high indeed in his eyes. this gives us a sense of what nations ask men to do in war. to complicate this, i want to give you a quotation from
another war writer, a patriotic novelist who fought on the western front. his name was edwin hague. he reflected on war books, especially war books that show us the sore deadness of the great war in british memory. he writes, for the last 10 years, we've been submerged by a flood of so-called war books that depict the men who fought as brutes and beasts. dissolution, drunken, and godless. some of these works are just ordinary dull dirts -- he is not referring to wilfred owen as builder, but sensationalized war novels. he says we do not need to worry about these sensationalized accounts, but others are undoubtedly sincere.
they are genuine. their object is obvious and understandable, to paint war in such horrible colors that no one will ever fight again. you can certainly see that in owen's column and you can see it in so much of the literature. so far, in this class, we have approached the topic of war and its impact on individuals, but also war's representation, and what i will simply call war's story. how war story works in culture and how historians approach that story within two frameworks. using two case studies that we have spent time with all is midwester long, the impact of the civil war, of course, fought around us in the fields of gettysburg and more recently in the last few weeks our discussion about combat experience about the first world
war, we've been able to recognize certain similarities within the cultural narrative s that are created by people who fight, but to come home, they survive conflicts and remember them afterwards. some central questions we have exampled are, what motivates people to fight in wars? what sustains soldiers on campaign or at the front? how do soldiers cope with the experience of war? how did they change as a result of what they witnessed? in this afternoon's class, dhou they show change? how do they write about it? how are memories created and articulated on paper? our case study this afternoon is the first world war in british and american memory, and we are considering the war's impact on individuals and the much larger
question of the memory of the war within british and american literature. you have read some examples about how the war impacted individual soldiers and how they treated it as a creative trope. the result of this creative enterprise -- their poems, their memoirs, their short stories -- these were created out of the aftermath of violence, violence on the western front. their works demonstrates for a something of the war's memory, but we should use caution in using the term memory. as we have talked about kind of ad nauseum in the class, individual memories are not the same thing as a collective consciousness. although individual writers are held up as being the voice of a generation or the experience of the war or the one book you need
to read to know something about this or that conflict, these works exist within particular context. they were written for particular audiences. a good caution is a reminder of the way we have examined the british war poets. war poetry has had a significant impact on the way the british view the first world war. many look at this as a tragedy, a wilfred owenization of the first world war. it looks at the impact through the lens of doomed youth. doomed youth, lost generation, what ever grim moniker we want
to use. this is another one of those problematic lenses that i believe we should remove from our world one glasses. we need a new prescription for the war's memory. we are going to be more aggressive -- we should cut out the cataract off disillusionment and with clear eyes view the war generation. our case study this afternoon, war literature released in the 1920's, has to do with the value of literature to show us the emotional impact of war. we should have no doubt as to this value. but we should still, as historians, exercise good old-fashioned skepticism as to whether literature is an effective way of interpreting complicated historical experiences. we are trying to get at the heart of the notion of disillusionment. how we use it interchangeably with disenchantment, as war
writers of this period did. it is a cultural trope. but why did it become the dominant voice to emerge from the experiences of the trenches? at the heart of our discussion this afternoon, you should all emerge questioning the way novels, memoirs, poems, films, made-for-tv miniseries, etc. impact the way we view history. you know that history is often times framed by the way social groups choose to remember certain events. and we see this in the way that we remember conflict. the civil war is oftentimes interpreted as a redemptive national tragedy. and there are problems with us doing so. the first world war is seen as bloody shambles, the lost generation, a precursor to the false starts, leading to the second world war, which is seen
by the americans as noble victory. the greatest generation. something that cements the rise of american power before vietnam. vietnam, seen as a political mistake. despair, disillusionment, shame coming from that war. the oliver stone interpretation of vietnam. each of these conflicts are of course complex. the way we remember them, we sometimes become victims of our own narrative reductiveness as we attempt to understand their vastness, their meaning, to understand our own identities. in order to understand who we are, sometimes we cut corners with the historical past. we see lenses designed for our own convenience. there is something very likable in us doing this. very much so. it is comforting. but if you know anything about history, it's not comfortable. it is messy. i was talking to one of you during office hours last week.
how messy history is. how frustrating it is. and it made me very happy. not so much the student, i think. history is messy. but as historians, that is our role, to get to the heart of things, to push back against easy generalizations. to question their foundations and stride to complicate what we think we know of the past. this is what we do when we enter cleo's garden. so, let us leave cleo's garden and go into the murkier trenches. the first world war, as you know, was a global conflict. it was waged by empires. it was fought in many different theaters. an anglo-american memory it is remembered primarily by its principal theater, the western front. the combat experience in the western front was brutal. soldiers adapted to their experiences with surprising resilience. most who served in the trenches,
most who served in the west return home afterwards. although of course many bore physical and mental scars of their war service. when the war ended in 1918, it was widely thought by the allies to be a victory over the central powers. in the decades that followed, the great war's hard-fought legacy was internationally remembered in thousands of ways. it was remembered in stone. it was remembered in bronze. it was remembered in what is the subject of this class on paper by those who lived through it. just as war monuments are meant to convey certain messages to the public, and they all have similar kind of language about sacrifice, about national virtue, about causes, tributes to comrades, etc., war books have a memorial purpose.
they convey the author's sentiments to the public at large. they are a forum for doing so. memory in the hands of the writers, the poets is about personal experience. but memoirs are also written to say something greater than the collection of war anecdotes, greater than war stories. the first first world war generated hundreds of american and british war books. many written by veterans, struggling to find a way to tell their story. in the late 1920's, some of the best-known of these books were written and published. "all quiet on the western front," "goodbye to all that," "a farewell to arms." today we are questioning the way
in which three authors interpreted the war. more specifically, how veterans interpreted their own homecoming. the first is robert graves, whose "goodbye to all that" we have been discussing and struggling through this week. next, ernest hemingway, which says something interesting about the american soldier coming home. the third, much less well-known known, an essay, the epilogue to a war book written in 1929. through these three accounts, we hope to get at something, some kind of impression of what the war memory looks like in the late 1920's to americans and britons who lived through it. first, i would like to start with robert graves. graves, i think is the closest
to us, so we should probably start with him. i have put up a quote here from a critic, cyril falls. he was a british historian who avidly reviewed war books in the 1920's for the times literary supplement. i rather liked him because he compiles his war book reviews into a rather slim book called "war books," in which he gives a paragraph reviewing all of them that come out after the first world war. and he reviewed robert graves as "goodbye to all that" came out in 1929. he reviewed it as such. his work has been justly claimed to be excellent. they are. in fact, among the few books of this nature that are of real historical value. his attitude, however, leaves a
disagreeable impression. one might gather that thousands of men instead of a few hundred were executed, and suicides were as common as blackberries. he is, in short, another example of an intellectual, whose intelligence into the war penetrates a much shorter distance than that of the plain man. a caustic review of robert graves. when we left off with robert graves, we we had him still in the trenches. last week, we examined graves serving in the western front. he witnesses what he regards as the amazing screw up of the british army, and then he does another battle where he is gravely wounded. more than gravely wounded. he dies in that battle, or at least that is how it is reported
back to the family. graves says at the time, i am not dead, but thank you for publishing something. so, graves is wounded in the trenches. he comes back and is recuperating back in england. he and he starts to think more on his military service. last week we talked about the type of soldier robert graves is. how would you summarize robert graves as a soldier, do you think? how would you characterize him? laura? >> he did not fall into a regular group of doughboys. he was on the fringes from the older soldiers. he was an outsider, which we saw from his
life earlier. my he seems a bit of an outsider. in the charterhouse, on the western front he seems to be an outsider. he does not fit in with his regiment. you get that in the subtext of what he is saying. robert graves is an intellectual outsider. he is not a great team player. you see a little bit of that. he is a little bit of an outsider. how does he view his war experiences? how is he changing during the war, do you think? kevin, what do you think? >> he views it as a transformative experience where he is an outsider at the beginning of his life. he continues to be so during the war, but he also learns to
get along with people a little better. he is able to buy and to the regimental history. he takes a lot of pride in the group of men he is serving with, even if he is not necessarily the most liked figure. it gives him a new experience he is able to put to use. >> graves appears to be a surprisingly, slightly surprisingly, slightly reluctant, good soldier. he deeply loves his regiment. he admires many of the men he served with. he is able to recognize her relic qualities and a lot of the action he sees that the westerns front. at the same time, graves is very conscious of lampooning what he thinks his military idiocy, and he talks a lot about, you know, kind of the british army, the british army's officialdom and how the british army is screwing up the war as it is ongoing. he is able to talk about the great heroism of his own regiment, this great sense of esprit de corps of the royal welsh fusiliers, but at the same time war conduct is not ideal on time war conduct is not ideal on the western front. when i say the words conduct is
not not ideal, how do you think his opinions are shifting and changing toward the notion of the war? the last section of his memoir is largely about graves coming out of the trenches and trying to deal with homecoming. trying to create a life after the war, ok? how those graves are just? how do you reconcile this war experience with an idea homecoming? what do you think? what do you think? what is your impression of him? yes, laura. >> eventually he tries to pick up where he left off. he goes back to oxford, even though he does not really finish it. it rough transition going back to civilian life. but you talk about him trying to go back into officers training before that and now he thought he would be able to get right back in was
much more difficult. he kept having flashbacks to earlier parts of the war. but did not work out too well either. >> right, graves comes back with a case of shellshocked, right? he identifies coming back with these memories of the war and gives us all kinds of examples of this. not being able to answer a telephone for the fear of a shock coming from it. commandeering private peoples cars as they are passing on country lanes. his foul language, military style language, even though he has an infant at home. he changes that. everyone has to change that eventually. graves changes that. this is a period of adjustment
coming back. he marries pretty quickly during the war and in the last third of the book, he is discussing this idea of trying to make a normal life. but would you consider his life a normal life? would you consider robert graves's homecoming to be typical of british veterans? yes? >> i think it was a little more intellectual than most of them coming back you really did struggles. he goes to oxford, is going to egypt to do some teaching, which does not turn out to be that great. also, he is married. his wife is 18, i thinkhe is 22. they have four children fairly quickly. i think he is really struggling. it is typical for the veterans to struggle, but i don't see -- i don't think you see a lot of them going to oxford and egypt to teach. >> right. >> for a way he is overcompensating for lost time. he does a lot of things -- he
tries to do all of this fairly quickly, like going to oxford and taking the job in egypt. it was like he was trying to make up for lost time. >> yeah, yeah, i would agree with that. >> i totally agree with laura. i think something he tried to do, just as she was saying, he was trying to recover this lost time, and he is also trying to redeem himself intellectually. like, i am going back to england. i am going to redeem myself. i am going to go to oxford and i am going to restart my life and hopefully progress. >> yeah, natalie? >> i was going to say on the small, day-to-day scale, his
experiences are more aligned with a lot of the typical british soldier coming home, the fact that he does react to a everyday items in a new and kind of almost frightened way. so, the way that it affects his everyday life seems slightly more typical than extraordinary >> yeah, you do see the struggle for normalcy that happens with graves. on one hand he does go to oxford and finds oxford to be full of ex serviceman, right? full of young officers going back and getting an education. also people in transition. charles carrington, it he went to oxford around the same time as graves. there are a lot of ex officers. he runs into and becomes a super fan of t.e. lawrence, right? he runs into him and is hanging out with him. why do you think he is putting that in his book? >> name dropping. >> name dropping. so both you said at the start of the book he wanted to include things that would make it more popular and t.e. lawrence was so
popular. >> yeah, he is like the avengers, iron man. he comes out of the first world war as this middle eastern adventure hero. and graves puts him in. he says kind of snidely later on, he puts them in to sell more books, but it is pretty apparent that graves really, really likes hanging out with lawrence. >> he has this tendency to be an individualist unless he is hanging out with someone uber- special. these just seem to be the kind of people he gravitates toward though. it is non-characteristic of graves to name drop t.e. lawrence. he has been doing that throughout the entire book. >> right, he is done that through the rest of the book. he is sitting with tom as a party, talking about poetry.
drinking ale with t.e. lawrence. he is talking to sassoon, helps them out when he is going to be court-martialed. all of these great, great british literary figures and he is putting himself in their world, because he was in their he was hanging out with t.e. lawrence. he wrote a biography of them that sold pretty well during this time. we can summarize and say "robert graves loves t.e. lawrence." he is still writing war poems. he is trying to make a living by his pen. he is living this bohemian life they're trying to run a shop, etc. and he is doing things that are pretty normal, ways he is trying to restart his life.
he gets married. he has children. he obsesses over things like diapers, money. so, he does try to have very much a normal life. when he leaves oxford and he goes off to cairo, he is trying his hand at a professional life as a teacher. does not go well though, right? goes back to becoming a writer, and eventually he says goodbye to all that. what do you think he says about british war memory? i got to tell you, i don't know the answer to this question, and i've been struggling with this for a long time. i always ask students, what are we supposed to get from graves? i can't figure it out yet. i need you to try to help me figure this out. what is the take away of this man's autobiography? his experiences in the war? >> actually looking at how the
guys in the trenches, who would have been noncommissioned officers, the leaders on the ground and in the trenches who are really making a movement, whereas the higher echelons of the british army, the ones in the regiment going through all of these difficulties, he is more disposed towards them than some of the officers. >> i find find val's answer very interesting. anybody know why? to paraphrase -- if i do this inaccurately, throw your pen at me, ok? what she is saying, graves is showing us something about how military life works on the western front. the war is being fought by
junior officers. in the words of charles carrington "it is a sub all turn's war." it is a war being waged on the front lines. graves is trying to show us that. he is trying to show a something of spirit or spree to court within these small units. i find this really interesting. i think there are people out there who would push back against what val is saying and say, hang on, graves does not redeem anything in the war. but i think they might not be listening to her as close as they should be. what she is saying is, though graves likes to lampoon heroism or military hierarchy, he does not lampoon the notion of heroism of individuals, right? he likes a lot of traditional martial things. you think that is a paradox?
yes? >> i certainly think it is a reflection of himself and his life before as an intellectual. he is representational of the split in classes and how that is parallel to the military. he is certainly doing that. i think it definitely shows. it shows somewhat of a commonplace in the british army, having that rigidity in social class, as well as in the military. >> ok, that makes sense. that makes a lot of sense. you are approaching the memory of graves is rather nuanced. is that what i am getting? graves is more complicated.
kevin, you're shaking your head when the book comes out, people like falls only see one side of robert graves. they see the name dropping charterhouse school boy with a bad attitude. what they are overlooking to some degree is graves is trying to show something about battle. trying to show that this war is a little bit different. a little bit different in the way it is being fought. and within an elite regiment like the royal welsh, what val said is essentially right. it is being fought in this traditional way where morale matters, more than patriotism, more than anything else. comradeship seems to matter most in the trenches to graves. so we are walking away with a different impression of what the war's memory looks like. let's turn our attention to ernest hemingway and "a soldier's home." now hemingway was in the first world war.
he was in the red cross. he served in italy. he was wounded in italy while serving in the red cross, hit by a trench mortar, and was severely wounded and had major operations on his leg to recover from his wounds. so, he served as an ambulance so, he served as an ambulance man with the red cross, and after he was wounded, he came back home. so, he is a little different than graves. he is not, you know, a four-year veteran of the war. he is not serving in an infantry regiment. he is serving in a different way. and the quote we have here is from his novel "a farewell to arms." i think you are reading it at
the moment, aren't you? >> yes. >> this comes from "a farewell to arms," a novel that he writes that kind of sort of describes real experiences. it is not a novel. it is based on his service in italy and he was serving in italy during the war and the protagonist in it, frederick henry, gets blown up in wounded in the same way that hemingway does. but hemingway puts in this one quote, and it is frequently put in anthologies, because it is hemingway sharing wisdom he gains from his war experience about how war changes men and the first world war. what he writes is -- "i was always embarrassed by the war's sacred, glory, and sacrifice, and expressions in vain. we had heard them, sometimes standing in the rain, almost out of earshot, so that only be shouted words came through, and he had read them, on proclamations that were slapped up by bill posters over other proclamations, now for a long
time, and i see nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were the stockyards at chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. typical hemingway -- lots of ands. these were the names of the places. abstract words such as glory, honor, courage were hallow i've seen alongside the concrete names of villages, regiments, and dates. he is trying to say these big abstract words that you see on war monuments, they are all hollow to soldiers who go through war. instead what they are focusing on are more pragmatic things.
living through it. right? hemingway say soldier's home. he examines, a veteran returning home. going back to the midwest. coming back home and trying to readjust to civilian life. what's that homecoming like? natalie? >> i mean, it's really difficult. at least i didn't get the sense that he was really expressive before the war. but we certainly get the sense that when he comes home, he has a really hard time relating to others, being outgoing, having genuine interest in a lot of things that are mundane, like going to watch his sister play baseball, that it's just -- compared to his experience in the war, this is kind of
trivial. he hasn't yet dealt with the trauma of the war. and i think that we can see that the most in the scene with his mother when she asks him if he loves her and he says no. and this sense that at the always has to try and console her, because the civilians can't necessarily deal with a soldier's experience. so the osoldiers have to alter what they say to pacify, because nobody can relate to them. >> yeah. >> that was convoluteconvoluted >> no, no. trauma, feelings of alienation, coming home, cruelty with the mom. hemingway loves the cruel lines, i don't love you. >> i think him coming home a year after efrp else affects his homecoming, because everyone comes home, they tell their experience and by the time he
comes home, no one wants to hear it. he tries to talk to people but no one is listening. that bottles everything up for him inside. he can't really express himself. >> i love that scene. jac jacob? >> when he does talk to people, they only want to listen when he is exaggerating his experience. he doesn't like that because he feels like he's telling lies and it's not true. but it's the only way he can get people to listen. the public is enraptured with the idea of extremes. >> maybe a little bit kind of out there, but he has this sense of entitlement. when he's talking about, he doesn't want the consequences. he wants everything given to him. it's interesting how that comes out. hemingway mentions he's a marine. because of the elite nature of the marines, it's almost like -- hemingway, at least for me, leads me to believe this comes from what his service was like. you are so elite that you get certain things or entitled to certain things.
>> he does want some kind of recognition. but he finds himself in a competitive land scape. everyone else has come home. he comes home pretty late. so, oh with his homecoming, all the stories -- the war stories have been told. most of them have been lies that he's found. that's not what service was like. if he wants his own voice to be heard, he needs to tell a bigger lie. he hates him self for doing. so he stops doing it. he wants to talk about his experiences, because he's found that they are good for him to talk about. >> i think that's an interesting meditation on memory and war books and this idea that memory is an imperfect thing. it's hemingway. of course he says it very elegantly, that to be listened to you have to lie. that kind of -- it's curious, because you have to kind of
approach then most if not all memory sources as this kind of lie but talking about a broader truth. and it's just interesting because there's a really big debate going on with memory studies and how reliable are the sources, because it is kind of like an exaggeration or lie. you misremember things. i think hemingway gets at that concept. when soldiers do tell the truth, that's not what the public wants. do you love me? do you love your mother? no, i don't. that's not what i want to hear. i'm going to cry until you tell me otherwise. i think it's an interesting observation on memory studies as a whole as well. >> right. there, of course, is the paur l -- the parallel we can make and the lying to the mother and saying, i love you. but i don't love you. i think what natalie is saying is interesting, more broadly. it is a difficult thing whenever you are dealing with memory
sources to figure out -- kevin, i was talking to you during office hour about this. we were expressing our frustration of trying to figure out, what is robert graves lying? when is he fabricating? maybe, why is he fabricating? why is he exaggerating? he is conscious he's doing in certain instances, right? men aren't actually using the water from their water cold machine guns to boil tea. that's one of the examples he gives. right? they're not tapping out machine gun bullets according to song rhythms. okay? he's kind of fabricating that stuff. he's doing it for a narrative purpose, to show us something bigger, i think. it's interesting, natalie, that you should bring this up. there's a quote -- we will look at some of chapman's reflections on his war experiences in a few minutes. chapman compiled -- he was like
falls in he was interested in reading war books and compiling them. chapman compiled this book, a collection in 1937 he put together a first world war writing. it's eninternational beginning -- a lot of british, french. in it, in it the introduction, he says that the nearest context we have with truth -- the nearest are the accounts of eyewitnesses. he said that they matter far more in historical accounts or anything else, they will be far more lasting in terms of the war's impact. what's interesting is chapman was smart enough to know -- he was a memoirist, that accounts by eyewitnesses are subject to inaccuracies. after all, when memoirists write, they are constructing a story. like you all do when you are
relating the best weekend you've ever had to your friends, you are cutting corners with the story. you are telling it for narrative affect. after all, it's not going to sell if you don't. right? hemingway is writing a story. we need to be conscious of the fact he is writing a short story. this is fiction. he's hoping to show us something more significant about the way people remember the war. what they are bringing home from it. kevin? >> i think it's interesting that his character, given all that, is so interested in waiting for all the histories to come out and the accurate maps. even as chapman is saying these are the memories that last, the lies, the exaggerations, the soldier himself, the character soldier is saying, well, this isn't true, i want to wait until all this stuff comes out so i can put myself on the map where
i was when and understand what role i played in the war. >> yeah. natalie? >> i think that that line, that segment reminded me -- i put it in the margins of the sheet. i mean, it's -- it is perhaps a very emotional story, the eyewitness, the flesh witness, that we're going to remember later. but you also needed to have that broader context of what's happening. you just don't get that from someone in the trenches. an individual in any war, you just don't get the big picture. tease always good to have both how this larger war impacted the individual but then you also need that context. >> i think it's really interesting, too, when he is looking through the maps and he's looking at the entire war narrative, he designates
himself, vsi was a good soldier. my story is important enough that it should be told. people should look at it. i was a marine. that right there is the real ordeal by fire for a lot of the marines during world war i. for him i think it's really tough for him. and then the fact that he's coming back home and the only thing that has changed for him and for the community is that the girls have gotten older. and so i think he has trouble, why isn't my story important? it's huge. it's huge to the context of the war. i think that debates through his mind. >> yeah. that interest in kind of military history is a way to insert himself back into history. you read that piece in the beginning of the semester about the importance of soldiers writing, showing they are the man who was there. one of his big arguments in his
book, he is trying to show, the people write member waoirs so tn tell people, i was there while great events were going on. crebbs wants to do that, too. his family won't let him but he wants to do it. >> play along that, exactly. wanted to bring up the fact that depending on what soldier experienced is going to influence what and how they portray what they saw. even if there are specific lies or stretched truths, what you are really getting are the things that they found most important or that people might want to hear the most of. but at the same time it's important to look at why they chose that and why they didn't choose that. in the sense of historical memory -- that's something more telling. in terms of history, it's the same story. the 69th pennsylvania pops into my head the most just in terms of monument placement here at
gettysburg. and that story but at the same time it was the idea of being remembered as being honorable and the rock. just the terms of how you want to be remembered is what you will say. >> yeah. definitely. that's great. way to work the civil war into it. we need to. we're here at gettysburg college. the story though -- i think this is great analysis. this is really well done. when the story is read, it's read as what -- the one word that natalie was using is soldier trauma, feelings of alienation from family. people interpret this struggle. do you see that as the takeaway from the the story? the question i love to ask all of you, if you are explaining this story to somebody who doesn't know anything about the
first world war, how would you explain it in a few sentences? run-on sentences like hemingway. right? and it was good. i caught the fish. i ate the fish. the fish was delicious. he wouldn't say delicious. he would say good. i gutted the fish. i cooked the fish. i ate the fish. the fish was good. i went to bed. >> i would describe it as a story about a soldier coming home and finding that it the rules he had learned around him were no longer working for him now that he was home. sew felt kind of out of place. i mean, because of the war but not the war itself but rather the homecoming that really kind of changes things on him. >> that's a good separation there. between the war itself and what he saw and experienced in the war and then coming home. girls' hair cuts are different
but he's not interested. his mother makes him the same breakfast and wants him to be in the same place he was before the war but he's not anymore. >> i was going to say, i think it's interesting that hemingway is trying to portray crebbs as the victim of coming home. i know it was after the war that you started getting this disillusionment and confusion. but i feel like hemingway is sort of following that in a way that he is coming home, he's confident in his war experiences. he was a good soldier. and then because he came home to a community that really had no interest in his story anymore -- i mean, he had to take that disillusionment idea and he had to kind of run with it in his own story telling.
i feel like he as well as carrington both look at the coming hocome ing home -- the return home as the victimization for the soldiers. >> but that's where it happens. >> i think crebbs comes home -- people don't understand him. he is struggling. he comes home a year later. nor does he then understand the people that are left there. they were kind of -- they were in their own world. he is in his own world. hemingway does a tremendous job -- he paints the family -- this is a unique family. the mom saying we're in this together, god's kingdom. wait a minute. what's this all about here? i have changed. i don't buy into that anymore. i think it's a struggle from both sides, the family that's left there as well as crebbs coming home. >> it takes forever for his dad to let him take the car out. he fought for his country.
>> if i were to explain this in the sentences that you described, i would say it's about a guy who is dealing with the conflicted nature in him of making this decision to go to war and then looking for validation of that afterwards. that's what he wants is he wants someone to recognize him. the only thing that will recognize him is the map. it's going to recognize the 6th and 5th marines. it's really interesting in that because everyone wants him to move on. he doesn't have time to deal with anything he has experienc d ed because it happened so quickly. it's kind of common when you look at certain memoirs that make it into the big stage. if anyone has seen the pacific recently one of the main characters, they are the same person. sledge comes home and kind of -- we don't understand you.
we want you to move on. it's interesting how it's unique that hemingway creates it but it's something we see in reality, too. >> there is a little bit of a difference -- a little bit of a difference between the second world war and the first. a little bit of a difference. what i mean by that, of course, is a delicate way of saying there's a big difference. there's not a little difference. there's a big difference. the second world war was not at risk of being forgotten in the 1950s. you get the impression from hemingway in the mid 1920s when this is written that people don't want to talk about the war anymore. do you think that this story has something to do with the way that americans remember the first world war? >> i think it says something about sensationalism in war. in that those who didn't participate, meaning the
civilians left at home, especially in the u.s. where the war didn't come here, so the civilians didn't have a context of this ultimate suffering that the soldiers went through. and so to the people at home who were waiting for their men to come home, they came back. it was a sensationalism in the sense that you guys were heros in the war. now let's get on with our lives because i've been waiting for you. and i think that that idea of civilians wait iing, it kind of steam rolls soldier memory. the soldiers aren't waiting in the same sense that the civilians are. their experiences are, oh, great, let's move on. >> save that title. steam roller of memory. someone else had a hand up. pete?
>> i think -- i think it says that because -- at least this is one what i'm thinking. in world war i, there's nothing sensational about american involvement. you would think americans were god on earth in world war i for saving everyone. in the context of the larger story of what happened, we were really small. it makes sense that what natalie was saying of the civilians at home -- it may have been in the papers for a day or two, but other than that there's nothing -- almost nothing worth remembering because there was nothing glorified american charge, using words that hemingway says are hollow. >> it's a question of scale, american involvement is less than other major players in the first world war. >> i mean it's true. but i think as well that ignores the idea -- perhaps this comes about a little bit later than the '20s but this idea that america entered the war and it's
done. we saved it for you. don't worry. we have this. in going along with the romantic idea of war, in the fields of battle. glory, yes. so i think that -- perhaps this could be a little bit later. but america constructs their exceptionalism into this idea of war, especially in world war i where we came over, we saved it for you. now the world is safe for democracy. we can go home and enjoy our lives in freedom. >> i think also this is kind of going back to earlier readings from the semester about how civilians don't understand war. i don't think civilians comprehend how much soldiers have changed throughout their experiences. they kind of along with what you were saying, you expect to hear the story once and they move on. but that's not realistic.
they have spent -- like graves, maybe four years in the trenches. that's something that changes you as a person. it's not a story you will tell once. it's something that will affect you for a long period of time. >> it's interesting, the stories become important in the 1920s. there are a lot of veterans organizations that spring up in nations from the first world war. the american legion, of course, a classic example. veterans getting together to share stories with each other. they feel like they can't share a lot of those stories with the civilian public, with their family members. it's interesting, because you will run into hemmiingway. i think it's good for us to push back a little bit on the story, the way that you have done it now, and to figure out, what's at the heart of the story. disillusionment doesn't really fit in. that word is too general for us
to get at the heart of what hemingway is actually writing about. since i brought up the big d, let's talk about charles carrington. he wrote a book, a memoir no longer in print. he did write kind of a revised half history, half memoir, which is still in print. it's a memoir of a junior officer's service on the wet earn front. and it shows two battles. like so many british soldiers, he was at two battles and he shows them in great detail. what i think makes the book really, really distinctive is that he felt a need -- he wrote his publisher about this. he specifically wrote his publisher and said, i want to put an essay at the end of my book on the philosophy of war.
that became the essay you read, which is on mill ta richl. this isn't some tome on here is what war is. this is an essay about generations and about war generations and how they are being interpreted. it's an amazing memorial document, a document that engaged with concepts of war memories not only in britain but bigger war memories than just britain. i'm going to pull up three quotes from it. he writes his intentions of the book is to strike a responsive cord in the hearts of some old sold who are tired of the uniform and disillusion of most authored of war books. it is time the world remembered that amongs the 15 million who served, there were other types as well as the